The COVID-19 pandemic created many new issues in family law matters.  Such issues include child visitation interruptions due to health risks, new and uncertain health and wellness decisions for the children, and financial issues such as who gets the stimulus checks or advanced child tax credits, just to name a few.

Interruptions in visitation due to the pandemic were an unexpected result of the 2020 health-scare.  Seeing as how the virus continues to be a risk and health and safety is a priority, these interruptions may continue or arise from time to time.  There are many ways parents can resolve these interruptions by implementing alternative access options for their visits.  Try outdoor activities with limited physical contact such as a bike ride, social distanced picnics, creative drive-by visits (balloon or card drop-off), video chats, or pen pals, mailing letters back and forth.

The pandemic also triggered some new money matters.  Many people received stimulus checks from the government, some received more than one.  The IRS followed an issuance plan by sending funds to bank accounts which were included on the most recently filed tax return or mailing to an address on a jointly filed return.  Some parties had separated after the last tax-filing, thus only one party received the stimulus funds related to that joint return.   In most cases, the issue of stimulus funds can be addressed when finalizing property division.

Another important issue is the recently implemented advancing of child tax credits.  The IRS implemented a program for parties to opt to advance child tax credits for 2021 with half of the credit being paid mid-year, and the other half being claimed upon filing of your 2021 return.  The criteria used to determine the Child Tax Credit payments is based on either 2019 or 2020 tax return or the information uploaded to the IRS for non-filers.  The issue here could be that one party claimed the child in even years while the other party is ordered to claim the child in odd years, for example.  Bear in mind that this is a tax credit advance and not free money; thus, the parent receiving the advance will be charged with that credit in his/her 2021 tax return.  In situations like this, it is always beneficial to both parties to communicate how the child tax credit advancements will be handled, and if such collaboration is not successful, seeking the advice of an attorney will help you make informed decisions going forward.


Written by: Christian Limon, CFLS and Heather Zavala, Esq.